Zotero: Comparison of RefWorks to Zotero


RefWorks vs. Zotero






Free to NCSU community

Free to everyone

Tie for NCSU community

Browser independence

Works with any browser

Firefox browser required (for now)

Tie for Firefox users, RefWorks for others

Ability to access citations from any computer

Saved citations available from any computer via NC State University Libraries site

Latest version has a sync function, so your citations are available from any computer

Tie. Maybe a slight advantage to RefWorks because Zotero syncing is sometimes slow.

Basic citation capturing

Requires exporting and importing, sometimes in two separate steps, new windows

Works within browser on same page, maybe some manipulation and organization

Unclear. Zotero is often a little quicker, but probably not enough to sway experienced RefWorks users. Speed also depends on the citation source.

Capturing websites

Yes, with RefGrab-It extension

Yes, by default

Zotero does this easily, without any additional installation. But both work.

Breadth of compatible databases

No advantage for either, but this is difficult to evaluate, and may depend on the databases you use regularly. Both have extensive lists of sites and databases they work with (RefWorks | Zotero). Both cover all major databases. RefWorks' list is longer, but Zotero could be considered more robust since it isn't necessarily limited to what's on its compatibility list. As long as information looks like a citation, Zotero can grab it. On the other hand, RefWorks can also handle some non-standard citations with a little formatting effort by the user. And you can edit citations with either.


Yes, but clunky

Yes, easy with snapshots, tags


Folder management

Works, clunky

Less clunky, allows for subfolders

Neither is great. But Zotero wins.

Revisiting articles

Yes, through SFX. Also have the option of attaching a file to references.

Yes, by attaching a file, a link, or SFX


Revisiting books

Provides link via SFX

Yes, saves NC State University Libraries catalog record

Zotero is a sometimes smoother.

Bibliography creation

Yes, huge style repository.


RefWorks (more options and styles available)

Integration with Word

Yes, through Write-N-Cite



Sharing citations

Yes: create read-only logins or a shared account. You can also easily export your citations and send to others for importing.

Yes: through Groups. You can also easily export your citations and send to others for importing.



Citations are secure and stable, since they are saved on the RefWorks server.

Possible more volatile, since citations are saved on your own computer. But there are syncing options to save online, and you can backup your library.

RefWorks by default, but Zotero has options to ensure you won't lose your work.